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11 October 2021

Microsoft has recently released its new Windows 11 operating system, which included new additions and improvements to the accessibility features. With a name change from Ease of Access to Accessibility in the settings, and the  accessibility options being available from the Control Centre in the taskbar.  It’s clear that efforts have been made to make it easier to enable accessibility options.

CFA Australia has undertaken a hands-on assessment of the new operating system.  While most of the features that were present in Windows 10 have only received incremental updates, there are a number of new features.  Including voice typing which are welcome additions.

The new Windows 11 accessibility features include:

  • Contrast themes: new colour adjustments which offers a range of different contrast intensities
  • The return of the start-up sound: absent since Windows 7.  This helps users know when the computer is awake
  • Different system notifications sound in dark and light themes
  • Voice typing to support people with mobility impairments
  • Direct access to a suite of accessibility features directly from the control centre icon on the taskbar.  Saving users from having to look through accessibility options in the operating system settings section.
  • Improved spacing in File Explorer and other user interface tweaks to improve readability.

While in our view the upgrade for supported devices is worth it, especially for users needing the voice typing feature.  Users should be aware that the Home version of Windows 11, will require a Microsoft account to use it.  There is no option to create a local account. This means that if you are planning to use Windows 11 Home, you will need internet access to set up your computer.

This was not the case for Windows 10.  Where users had the choice whether to set up the computer with a Microsoft account or a local account. Windows 11 Pro users still have the ability to set up Windows 11 with a local account.  If you do not need voice typing, most of the changes are more design-focused.  So there are only minor practical differences between Windows 10 and 11 for accessibility.

The good news is that there’s not much to learn in using the new operating system for most users.  The most striking design change – the centring of the Start menu – can be put back on the left for consistency with Windows 10.

The biggest accessibility question regarding Android app compatibility still remains elusive.  As Microsoft have opted at this time to launch Windows 11 without its promised Android app support from the Amazon app store. However, this feature is still slated to arrive in the coming months, at which time we’ll look again at its accessibility potential.

Eligible devices will start receiving the option to upgrade for free in the coming weeks.